If you're a regular here or with Althea Pashman, the Tampa Bay Lightning Examiner, then you already know what we have lined-up. Yes, another Q & A collaboration.
As the Boston Bruins pulled one-step closer to the Stanley Cup Finals -- by defeating the Lightning 2-0 last night inside St. Pete Times Forum and taking the 2-1 series lead -- there are many questions that need be addressed surrounding Game 3, and heading into Game 4.
So without further ado:
Mark Marino: The Lightning breezed through the Washington Capitals in the previous round. Do you think the Bruins' defensive system is giving Tampa Bay a particularly tough time with not only their top-players and lines (Stamkos, St. Louis) but with their depth (Bergenheim, Moore etc.) that was so effective versus the Caps?
Althea Pashman: I think the biggest problem is that the Lightning are still having a difficult time sticking to their system... which is giving the Bruins defensive system the opportunities. It seems that some of the players are trying to do too much, too soon rather than holding in their position and waiting for the right opportunity.
MM: There's no questioning Steven Stamkos' sniping ability. We saw him score a goal top-shelf on Thomas in Game 2 that only one or two other players in the NHL could pull-off. People in Boston are still talking about that off-wing snap-shot...and the laser he ripped off the crossbar on a 2-on-1 with St. Louis last night. Being his one-and-only goal against Boston through three games, do you feel as if he's the one player on the club that needs to start taking over for the Bolts this series?
AP: Yeah, I really think that if he was able to put a few behind Thomas it certainly would give the team a boost. What I've noticed about Stamkos is that he's a streaky goal scorer - once he gets going he could rack'em very quickly.
Although his goals have been few and far in-between he has played well and continues to make plays and has been adding helpers along the way.
MM: Last night was the first look for Guy Boucher and the Bolts with Patrice Bergeron back in the Bruins' lineup. How much of a different factor was he -- especially his defensive play -- that game from the Lightning point of view?
AP: In all honesty and this is just my opinion I really think the Lightning were just a bit cautious around him, specifically on the face-offs - but, then again the Lightning seemed to be a bit tentative all night.
MM: Naturally, a team never wins when they don't hit the back of the net. But in Games 1 & 2, Tampa Bay blocked 17 shots in each contest. Last night, just nine. Do you think the D are struggling in front of Roloson, or maybe Boston has figured them out?
AP: Good question - No, the defense isn't struggling in front of Roloson and Boston hasn't figured them out. In last night's game Boucher decided to go with six defenseman instead of his usual seven and I think that was the main reason. It's a different game when Boucher goes with 6 d-men... that's a stat [blocked shots] I'd really like to see compared.
And now some questions about the B's:
AP: Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are averaging well over 28 minutes a game - Seidenberg on 5/17 logged 30:11. How can they sustain their play given the type of this we're seeing?
MM: Seidenebrg has been the unsung hero of this Bruins team. He's been logging monster minutes ever since the Montreal series, and even looks as if he's getting better with each game. Chara has always played big minutes; he's always tops in the NHL, year after year, in time on ice. Plus his conditioning, especially his offseason workout regimen, is off the charts. I think he wore down a bit last season because he didn't have that big counterpart like he does with Seidenberg this season. I don't see -- barring an injury -- these guys slowing down, especially at this crunch-time of the post season.
AP: It was apparent in last night's game how valuable Patrice Bergeron is to the Bruins. With that said, had he not played would the Bruins still have won the game and if so, would it have been as close as it was?
MM: I was a bit surprised just how good he looked, Bergeron didn't miss a beat. He played physical, was a monster on the face-off dot (especially against Lecavalier), and really picked-up where he left-off. And that being the team's best player.
Would the Bruins have won last night without him? Tough to say. He wasn't involved, or on the ice, for any of the Bruins goals, but that's only half the battle. With the face-off wins (18-for-28) obviously means more puck possession -- and that was a concern for the B's, especially in Game 1. He injected some life and extra confidence in this team last night with his presence, which certainly helped in the dominating win.
AP: Martin St. Louis last night said that the Lightning didn't challenge Tim Thomas enough - that as the game progresses he gets stronger. How true is that... how much stronger can he get in goal?
MM: We got spoiled with Thomas' play this year. I think we all expect these types of performances for the soon-to-be two-time Vezina winner. The best example for Lighting fans of how true St. Louis' comments were was in the third period of Game 2. The ice was slanted in Boston's end for about 90 percent of that period, and Thomas lived-up to his name, "The Tank." Had it not been for him, the Bruins were heading to Tampa Bay down 2-0.
AP: As part of the media, what if any talk has there been of the officiating during this series? I guess an example would be the clean hit that Marc-Andre Bergeron gave to David Krejci that resulted in an elbowing call to Bergeron?
MM: Agreed in saying it was a clean hit. No doubt a poor on-ice call by the referee. In fact, even listening to sports talk around town, the general consensus agrees that is was most certainly not an "elbow." The only thing you could possible question was the head being the primary point of contact. But even there, it's a stretch.
Coming through the neutral zone like that, players have to keep their heads up. And even worse, Krejci was standing right in front of the Bruins bench. I'm surprised that no one game No. 46 a yell of "heads-up!" from the bench -- or if they did, he wasn't paying attention.
As far as the officiating, I think the entire NHL officiating is often soft and suspect. Not as bad as the NBA, but it's certainly questionable. This series has been no different. Game 2 had a lot of borderline calls (that goalie interference on Ryan Malone in particular was a joke).
Game 4 is tomorrow afternoon again in Tampa Bay.